In the 46 years before 2021, Michigan women’s gymnastics never passed the 198-point mark, though it had come close a couple times in the years leading up to it. 197.950 in the 2020 Elevate the Stage meet, then six days later it put up a 197.9 against New Hampshire.
But, since eclipsing the 198 mark — a mark which means, on average, everyone on the team needs to get a 9.9 or better in every event — it hasn’t looked back. The Wolverines surpassed it four times in 2021 and thrice in 2022, including setting a new record of 198.525. Over the last two years, the program has elevated itself to another level.
“We want to walk in there being confident, being aggressive and feeling like, I always quote a saying I got from Lloyd Carr years ago, ‘Know the outcome before you begin,’ ” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said Saturday. “That’s my definition of confidence and we have used that a lot and that’s how we want to feel about how we’re going to go into Fort Worth.”
Michigan won the National Championship last season and it’s not slowing down, proving itself to be even better than it was last year at both the individual and team level.
Let’s run through some numbers.
Junior Sierra Brooks is averaging a 39.562 all-around score. The program record is 39.526, set by Natalie Wojcik in her freshman year — Wojcik is still on the team, with a 39.328 all-around score. Junior Gabby Wilson has an all-around score of 39.465, good enough for third in program history. Sophomore Naomi Morrison’s 39.436 will also be a top-10 score.
Settling further into the details. Wilson’s vault average of 9.910 is fifth in program history. Her bars average is sixth in program history. Her floor routine average of 9.955 is best in program history. Brooks’ floor average of 9.943 will settle into second place behind that and Morrison’s will plummet all the way down to fourth in the record books once the season ends.
Wojcik, who won the individual national championship in beam in 2019, is averaging a 9.915 — a standard of excellence that falls only behind her own scoring average from when she won the title. By the time Wojcik’s career is over, she will hold three of the top four spots in Michigan’s record book for average beam score.
Each of these individual levels of excellence compound themselves into a team that can compete at the highest level.
The Wolverines are the best floor team in program history, outpacing the second highest by nearly two 10ths and their beam score is the best in program history with a 49.321. Their vault score, despite an uncharacteristically poor performance against Nebraska, will be second highest in program history and their bars performance is also second in the country. Both of those are second-best only to last year’s team.
Michigan’s season-average score of 197.841 is tied for first in the country with No. 2 Florida and, if the season ended today, would make this the best team in program history. Second-best is 2021 and third is 2020.
It’s hard to follow up a national championship season with one that can match that level of success. Throughout the season, the Wolverines have proven they can be even better than last year.
This weekend, they showed an ability to battle through adversity to match these numerical advancements. Coming in second during the second round, they didn’t coast into the regional finals — it was just their second time all season not winning a meet. They struggled on bars, along with a logistical default costing them a 10th of a point. The best vault rotation in the country struggled as well with a 49.375.
On Saturday, Michigan fell behind UCLA for first place in the meet after two events and headed toward a knockout battle with Missouri for the final spot in the NCAA semifinals.
By the end of it, though, the Wolverines forced a nearly half-point swing to comfortably win the regional. Their vault and bar scores — the two weak points of the second round — were the class of the region, exuding a confidence and surety that only those with experience in excellence can display.
“For our team… when there’s some type of adversity or something that they know they need to step up for, I think that’s when they’re at their best,” Plocki said.
There’s still plenty of opportunities for Michigan to falter as it tries to go for a repeat national championship. There’s still plenty of chances for a fall or a step out of bounds. But the Wolverines have one of the best teams in the country, the mental toughness to overcome a mistake and the experience to take them back to the finals.
And maybe, just maybe, give Michigan its second title in as many years.